The waitress finally stopped at our table to take our order. She never glanced up from her pen and pad to greet us, nor did she crack a smile on her sour puss.
“Are you ready to order?” asked Miss No Smile.
“Yes, I’ll have the salad. But can you put the dressing on the side?” I asked.
“What?” she snapped, never looking up at me.
“Can I have the dressing on the side?” I calmly repeated.
“You want the dressing on the side?” she asked, as if this was a capital offense.
“Yes.” I replied firmly, trying to hold my temper.
“I’ll see what I can do.” she briskly replied.
Where is Miss Manners when I need her?
“Hi Edie. We haven’t spoken in a long time. I have a lot to tell you. Please send me some dates so we can schedule a time to meet. Miss you!”
I hit the SEND button.
A few days later, I checked my email. No reply.
The next week there was no reply. And the next few months there was no reply.
I took a deep breath, remembering not to take it personally, and I wrote another email.
“Hi Edie. I guess you’re pretty busy and haven’t had a chance to answer my last email. I hope we can catch up soon.”
Once again I hit the SEND button.
Once again there were no replies.
Once again I felt a dagger in my heart.
I wonder what Emily Post would say about unanswered emails?
I try to be as courteous as I can. I answer every text, email, private message and phone call.
Since I’m a writer and work from home, I have more time than others because I don’t commute or need to figure out what I’m going to wear.
But what I do is work, and I work hard to earn every paycheck. My time means money.
Should I be answering every message? No. Will I stop doing it? No.
Because being courteous is important to me.
Have the lessons we’re taught in childhood, to be kind and courteous to others, disappeared because we’re too damn busy?
Where do we draw the line between what’s an acceptable behavior and what is rude and not nice?
Technology makes our lives easier. Yet it‘s also created a society of people who walk next to each other without talking. They are too busy texting and checking their messages.
Okay, I’m guilty of that. Just ask my husband and son. Sorry, guys.
Times have changed.
In a New York Times article entitled, “Incivility Can Have Costs Beyond Hurt Feelings”, Alex J. Parker, author of “How Rude!: The Teenager’s Guide to Good Manners” (Free Spirit Publishing, 1997), explains:
“I would be the first to say that there has been an absolute collapse of civility in the past generation or two. So much of communications is once removed that it adds a layer of distance and anonymity that can only worsen manners.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a person is taught to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and once they’re used to replacing those thoughts, the positive ones become their new norm.
I think a type of CBT would work well when dealing with rude and discourteous behavior. Replacing feelings of anger with compassion and understanding might do the trick.
Here are two quick tips to try and cope with rude or discourteous behavior:
- Give the person the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know what they’re going through. Perhaps it’s an illness, or they had little sleep. Be compassionate, even if you find it hard to do.
- If it’s a close friend or relative, let them know you understand they’re busy, but you’d like to talk to them about whatever is going on. Having an open discussion can prove very helpful.
If rude behavior continues after you followed the advice above, it’s time to move on. You may feel disappointed or hurt, but you can’t force another person to behave the way you think they should.
Using good manners in our daily lives, and teaching our children and grandchildren about their importance, is what will bring good etiquette back into fashion.
How do you deal with rude or discourteous behavior? What has worked for you?
Other posts you might enjoy: